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  • Esther Good

I Am Pro Life, I Am Pro Choice

Updated: Jan 20

I went to Planned Parenthood for the first time when I was 22 years old.  I was a good Mennonite girl who wore a head covering to church, and when I made the appointment, I was afraid to type the location into my Google calendar in case anyone happened to see it.

I was a virgin. I was getting married in a few months and I needed birth control.  I was still on my parent’s insurance, which wouldn’t cover the kind of birth control I thought was right for me, and it was hinted to me in hushed tones and whispers that Planned Parenthood may be the best place to go.

As I drove up to the clinic, I was relieved to see that the half-dozen men and women that I sometimes saw picketing near the entrance weren’t there.  I’m not sure I could have gone in if they had been. I was treated respectfully and given good care.  I left with my birth control and I expected never to return.

But I was back a few years later.  This time, my husband and I wanted to conceive.  I had had an IUD placed after my first pregnancy, but when I called my OB/GYN practice about getting it removed, I was given a lecture about how my insurance probably wouldn’t cover the removal since I had not kept the IUD for the full five years. Getting the IUD removed would involve multiple visits, counseling, and insurance preapproval. Instead, I went to Planned Parenthood.  Again, I was treated respectfully and given good care.


Listening for baby’s heartbeat.

We were lucky enough to conceive shortly thereafter, but the pregnancy was complicated.  I developed severe preeclampsia and was hospitalized at 33 weeks of pregnancy. As my condition worsened, the doctors made plans to induce labor.

Yohannes balked at the idea. He knew that premature babies were at risk for complications, including effects that might not be evident for years to come.  He knew that women in the U.S. rarely die of childbirth-related complications.  He didn’t want to induce labor unless the doctors could give him sound statistical evidence that the risk to me of continuing the pregnancy was higher than the risk to the baby of inducing labor early. As the discussion continued, I kept picturing a woman I had known as a child who was crippled by complications from preeclampsia.

Yohannes is a math major.  He is a numbers person. He thinks statistically about everything. These are the things I said to myself over and over again as I lay in the hospital bed while Yohannes heatedly discussed statistics with my healthcare providers.  These are the things I said to myself to try to dim the hurt I felt.

But it was so hurtful.   I felt like a commodity, being weighed and measured against the life inside of me.  I felt my autonomy slipping away, as others deliberated about what risks to my body–to my selfwere acceptable.

I’m grateful that Yohannes cared so much for our child. I’m grateful that it’s in his nature to question the status quo and seek the truth.  I beleive the conversation would have played out differently if he really believed I was in danger. But after that experience, I have a new jealousy for my right to my own body.

I know that my daughter’s life began sometime between when she was conceived shortly after my visit to planned parenthood, and when she was born six weeks before her due date, but I don’t know exactly when.  Was it when the sperm first met the egg? Was it when her heart started to beat?  Was it when she could first feel pain, or first gained consciousness, or first became viable outside of the womb? Whenever it was, I know that her life is precious–her life is sacred. I would not hesitate to give my life for her, because she is my child and I love her. It’s not because I think her life is more valuable than mine. Faced with a pro-life movement that gives so little value to women’s lives and bodies, I have increasingly identified as pro-choice.

I am pro-life, but I recognize that carrying a child is a great sacrifice. My body suffered during each of my pregnancies.  I had severe nausea, vomiting and headaches during my pregnancies. My labors were difficult (as labor tends to be). I suffered trauma during delivery that will be with me for the rest of my life.  I dealt with symptoms and risks of preeclampsia during and after delivery, as well as hemorrhage during delivery that left me bed-bound for days. I struggled with post-partum depression. I chose to embrace these complications as a part of parenthood, but I hate it when people talk about how selfish abortion is without recognizing the huge costs of pregnancy and its aftermath.

I am pro-life, but I recognize the role that the Church has had in shaming young and unwed mothers. I’ve heard these women criticized in church more than any other place.  I’ve heard statements about how a single mother is undeserving of assistance because her need stems from her “choice to sin”.  I’ve heard about how a woman with multiple unplanned pregnancies should “have her tubes tied or have her legs tied.” This atmosphere does not invite women to keep their babies rather than have abortions.

I am pro-life, but I recognize that adoption is not an “easy fix” for unplanned pregnancies. I support adoption 100% when it is done ethically, but it can be a hard road. Adoption necessarily stems from loss–the loss of a child for the birth parents, and the loss of birth parents for the child.  Adoption can be a wonderful way for a child to join a family, or it can be a heart-wrenching way for a child to lose a family.  Often it is both. And too many children who are in need of a family are never adopted at all, and end up chronically in the foster care system instead, putting them at increased risk of neglect and abuse.

I am pro-life, but I don’t believe that anti-abortion legislation is the best path to reducing abortions. I grieve for the girl I knew in Kenya who died after having an illegal abortion. We went to camp together. She was just a teenager, probably terrified of the shame she would face as an unwed mother. The fact that abortions were illegal didn’t keep her from getting one, but in the end it meant that two lives were lost instead of one. While it might feel noble to win some ideological war within the government, making abortion illegal will not make abortion go away, and I don’t believe there is any responsible way that justices in the court or legislators in congress could possibly regulate the many nuanced circumstances that can lead a woman to choose abortion without causing additional harm. What has been shown to be effective in drastically reducing abortion rates, is access to sex education and birth control.

I am pro-life, but I believe that I should ultimately be responsible for choices that involve my body. In the wake of recent news that the Supreme Court is set to overturn Roe v. Wade, I want to acknowledge that I recognize the sacred life of an unborn child. I also recognize the sacred life of that child’s mother.  I think it’s true that abortion infringes on the rights of an unborn child, just as I think it’s true that forcing a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy infringes on her rights.  The two lives are linked. Even before they were born, there was no one on this earth who loved my children more than I did, and no one better situated to make decisions with their, and my, best interest in mind.  How can it be right for the choice to rest with anyone else?

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